Welcome to the Mask Museum

by G.L. Morrison

Along this hallway you will see
a disparate collection, function and history
of masks, masking, maskery.
The sacred beside the profane. 
Second faces of warriors and shamans.
Kachina dancers. Venetian Masquerade.
A snorkel. A fireman’s SCBA. A Halloween
ninja turtle, a bird goddess, 
the plague doctor, Jesse James’ bandana,
the mardi gras party-goer (revelling 
in Fat Tuesday’s excesses before
the austerity of Lent), mickey mouse,
heads of high school mascots, the surgeon’s blue,
a gas mask from WWI, a balaclava.
A welder’s face shield, a soldier’s.
The hangman’s hood, the clansman’s.
A ski mask. A death mask.
A burka. A bridal veil.
The Guy Fawkes. The Casanova.
The Red Masque of Death. 
The ball gag gimp. Rubber heads 
of presidents and Hollywood kings.

Ahead is an alcove 
that is mask-free. Its walls flanked 
by mirrors to show you the masks 
you wore in here unwittingly: 
flirt, scold, teacher, liar, comforter,
punisher, sinner, savior. Room 
enough for all expressions. Unmask 
yourself. See what you see.

To the left, there is a wall 
with over a hundred face masks
to represent the diversity of choices
and messaging available during 
the global pandemic of 2019:
Black Lives Matter, If You Can Read
This You’re Too Close.

To the right is a empty wall
to represent the masks not worn
by freedom fighters in the war 
against common sense 
and communal health guidelines. 
Note at the bottom, a digital display 
ticks like seconds on a clock
ticking like a bomb
ticker tape like dollars lost
like a parade for dead patriots.
Too fast to read the names 
of any individual. But no matter.
Individualism isn’t meant 
for individuals. Names aren’t important.
It’s the principle that counts.

G.L. Morrison is a professional writer, an amateur grandmother, and a regional organizer for the Communist Party USA. Queer and disabled, she lives at the intersection of many communities and identities where she tends honey-filled hives of sweet poets, artists, and activists. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC.  Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.

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